Tuesday 6 June, 2023

The road taken

With apologies to Robert Frost.

Quote of the Day

”I like Wagner’s music more than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage.”

  • Oscar Wilde

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Stephen Foster | Beautiful Dreamer | Leslie Guinn, baritone, Gilbert Kalish, piano.


Recorded on period instruments at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C

Long Read of the Day

The partisans beyond the filter bubble

Terrific Substack post by Charles Arthur (Whom God Preserve) on some research which challenges some of the myths about online filter bubbles. The takeaway conclusion Charles draws is that

Small groups of: (i) ageing (ii) right-wingers (iii) on their desktop computers (because this study wasn’t — couldn’t – be carried out on mobile, only desktop) get their information from unreliable, partisan news sites. The study doesn’t say whether they then go on to share it on Facebook or on their Twitter account grumpyboomer032945231, but it’s not hard to imagine that’s what happens.

This isn’t to let the search algorithms off the hook either, but does go to show that the real problem, as ever, lies with the humans.

Worth reading the whole piece. It’s thought-provoking, not least because it challenges some conventional wisdom about the impact of social media.

Books, etc.

Kieran Setiya has a nice review of Florence Hazrat’s Brief History of the Exclamation Mark!.

Hazrat’s book is packed with wonderful factoids. Other names for the exclamation mark include “the screamer, the slammer, the bang, the gasper, and the shriek.” Not surprisingly, “!” is much-derided. F. Scott Fitzgerald compared the exclamation mark to laughing at one’s own joke, while the journalist Philip Cowell called it “the selfie of grammar.” Yet, writes Hazrat, “it exists in nearly every language from Persian to Mandarin.” We clearly need it!

Thanks are due, then, to Alpoleio da Urbisaglia, who first used a full stop with an apostrophe or raised comma to mark “exclamatory or admirative sentences,” an innovation formalized as “!” by Coluccio Salutati in 1399.

Among punctuation marks, “!” is unique in splicing syntax with sentiment:

The power of the exclamation mark to orchestrate tone and feeling makes us nervous, at least some of us. ! has a foot in both camps: grammar and rhetoric; cold hard rule and fuzzy emotion. It sits perched between syntactical exactness and blurry subjectivity, revelling in its double identity, a queer mark that defies binaries…

This helps to explain its massive overuse in email, especially by those, like me, who resist the emoticon.

Guilty as charged, m’lud!

My commonplace booklet

Thank you for not answering

Remarkable, slightly eerie, short experimental film made entirely by ‘Generative AI’. Artist Paul Trillo was the Director.

It’s a claustrophobic film that could have taken oodles of time, money and special effects to shoot, but Trillo generated it in minutes using an experimental tool kit made by an artificial-intelligence company called Runway.

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